How to Prove U.S. Citizenship?

There are certain points in your life when you will need to prove that you’re a citizen of the United States. The two most common reasons you’ll need to prove citizenship are when getting a job and paying your taxes. To prove your U.S. citizenship, you need certain documents.

Most of the necessary citizenship documents are easy to get if you were born in the country or became a citizen through naturalization. However, some can be much more challenging to get. Here are the four kinds of documents used most often that prove U.S. citizenship.

uscis letterhead and american flag
The USCIS letterhead and an American flag. If you’re an immigrant, you can prove your U.S. citizenship with the right documents and help from the USCIS.

Common Documents to Prove Your Citizenship

If you were born in the United States, you’re already a citizen. Rare cases include people born outside the U.S. to American citizens staying abroad as travelers or in a diplomatic capacity.

If you were born outside the United States, and either one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens, you could already be one as well. You would still have one of the four common documents to prove your citizenship, which includes:

For nearly all cases with a citizenship question, one of these four documents will provide the necessary proof. How do you get one to prove your citizenship?

How Do I Get a Copy of My Birth Certificate?

Birth certificates are issued by the state you were born in if you were born in the United States. If you were born abroad and your parents registered your birth and U.S. citizenship, then you may obtain proof of this through the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country of your birth.

The procedures and fees for getting a copy vary from state to state. Your best bet is to look up the Office of Vital Records in the state you were born in. If you were born out of the country, contact the embassy or consulate that would be responsible for recording your birth.

If you were adopted by U.S. parents, you will not have a U.S. birth certificate. Instead, you will need to use a Certificate of Naturalization

How to Get a U.S. Passport

A passport is used to show proof of citizenship to foreign countries, and it serves as one of the most trusted forms of identification in the United States. Thus, if you have one already you can use it to prove citizenship status.

If you don’t have one, you will need one of the other forms anyway to apply for one. To see the current requirements for getting a passport, contact the U.S. Department of State for details. Many post offices also have the application form.

How to Get a Certificate of Citizenship

In certain cases, a passport isn’t enough. A Certificate of Citizenship is the highest form of proof that U.S. immigration has confirmed you are a citizen. In fact, if you have one then it’s the only document you need to file a passport application.

Since this document is registered with USCIS, it’s absolute proof you’re a citizen. If you were ever to be deported, the record of the certificate would stay in your file and serve as evidence that you were wrongly deported.

There is one downside to this document: it’s expensive to get—well over $1000. However, once you have one, it never expires, unlike a passport. But if you already have a passport, you probably won’t need this document unless you’re trying to get a government job.

How to Get a Certificate of Naturalization

If you’re a naturalized citizen, this is the document you get at the end of the citizenship process that proves you’re a U.S. citizen. This should be kept in a safe place, though there are ways to get a replacement copy from the USCIS.

How Does a Child Prove Citizenship?

If you have a child born outside of the U.S. to at least one U.S. parent, that child may qualify for citizenship. However, there are restrictions. Notably, at least one U.S. citizen parent has to have lived in the country for a period of time. The USCIS has an information page on how you can get proof of a child’s U.S. citizenship outside of the country.

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